Vivat Profesores! - Through The Looking Glass Of Time

There are chances in life. I have made mention of it before and will not hesitate to repeat it. To some of them we turn a blind eye; for others we may knowingly not have the just power of judgment and pondering. Or, that of turning something to good account. Floria Capsali , to me, marked a fortunate encounter with a fellow-human being. You see, we do not have as yet a national school which could provide the robust elements, the grounding of artistic, classical dancing. It is a fact that several private dance studios were functional in the Bucharest of the 30s. Nevertheless, to my mind, one could only be taught little more than the ABC of movement, the preface of dance, in those establishments. A special atmosphere reigned in the Floria Capsali's Studio in Brezoianu Street, a place frequented by many future ballet dancers of note . What was it that happened there? It was also a question of a new spirit, mentality-wise. A spirit endorsed by this unique professor. Why am I saying all that? Because she was very well-trained theoretically, and – in a very distinctive way – practically, at the Classical Ballet School. There have been, with good reason, various writings on the Neo-Classical School she had visited in Paris. In the French capital she took courses with Enrico Cecchetti, then, with Christine Kerf and Leo Staats. Nevertheless, judging from the end result, I think that those who have guided her towards her distinctive style were Nicolas Legat, her professors in the rhythmics course: Raymond Duncan, Jeanne Ronsay, lecturers in the History of Arts at the Sorbonne and of rhythmics at the schools in Berlin. This intellectual history would later become apparent in the artistic schooling and vision of her disciples.[…]Though I haven't systematically frequented the Studio inaugurated by Floria Capsali in 1924, one of the first of its kind in the country, I deem myself to be a student of hers. And, a disciple.[…]Floria Capsali had a great weakness for composer recitals. And a great faith placed in their effectiveness to launch and individualize artistic idiosyncrasy, talent, the case of exception, in ballet. She was pervaded by the conviction that this show genre was, at the given time, a form of drawing a votary audience of multitudinous proportion, for ballet performances. She herself had successfully launched her career in such an artistic context. Over a period of time, she had danced with Sefar. Later, with her husband to-be, Mitiţă Dumitrescu. But let us resume in evoking the atmosphere of those recitals: they provided, like countless other previous forms of performing, the same generous umbrella, an artistic launch pad. Part of the names I have previously mentioned […] had already gained currency in the artistic life of the country. Such was the case of ballet performers Gabriel Negri, a former student and admirable partner of Floria Capsali's, Marie-Jeanne Livezeanu, Trixy Checais, the latter – an authoritative talent of great artistic scope and a ballet master in his mature years, blessed with the gifts of painting, engraving and drawing. He, as a matter of fact, had authored a considerable amount of scenery models and costume sketches for a vast host of shows. The same school produced Gelu Matei, Ida Proşteanu Matei, Iosefina and Rozina Kranik, Milica Marinescu, Magdalena Rădulescu, Puşa Niculescu, Rina Constantini, Tilde Urseanu, Sanda Cilski, Gabriela Danovski – my present wife – whose maiden name was Ionescu. All these would, on the boards of the Romanian Opera, interpret roles of multifarious expression. Further, the contribution of Clark Nichols should not be overlooked …[…] His ballet performance was consequential to the development of a specific genre of ballet show, at the two variety theatres of that epoch, i.e. Tănase's Cockchafer and Alhambra of the tandem of "N-s", Constantinescu and Vlădoianu. Floria staged and performed alongside Nichols in numerous scenes. Nichols was also a collaborator with the Dance School led by Floria. One of the performances which remained engraved in my memory, was The Apotheosis of Labor, presented in the variety show The Grand Duchess of Alhambra, which was produced around 1936. This choreographic oeuvre included" – as we would term them today – elements of "modern dance and was an image of higher art, for which no eulogy proved to be an exaggeration. This was the key in which contemporary press wrote in this respect. It was referred to as a high-class achievement, complemented by a décor belonging to Mac Constantinescu, a sculptor. In another variety show, which had been produced in the previous year, namely Strada Sărindar (if memory does not fail me), Floria Capsali and Nichols arranged a brilliant piece of ballet, against a scenery tapestried with newspapers of that epoch, which came off the presses at the epicenter of Romanian media: Sărindar Street. The rotary printing press releasing a whirlwind of gazettes was the staggering picture. This conjured up an atmosphere of intense artistic effect, very popular with the audiences. Who was Nichols? An American-raised Greek. He had exerted his profession over almost four years in Romania. At the time, his family had settled down in Bucharest. In watching him during the show one could perceive how much of a technician he was. In his short time spent as a collaborator, co-performer and spouse to Floria Capsali, he managed to give a course in Classical Ballet at her Studio, and was employed as a ballet master at Constantin Tănase's Theatre. As noted previously: he produced The Alhambra for the Variety Company, a show intimately linked to episodes of my own youth. […]Romanian character dance, as an artistic form of releasing contents and national ballet performances were to choreographer and ballet creator Floria Capsali the most powerful and consistent of an "artist's haunts". […] She was not solely a good educator and dancer, but an ardent promoter of locally-inspired ballets, as well. A distinguished collaborator of Dimitrie Gusti and the School of Sociology, with whose research team she was directly involved over a long time, she explored and sought to identify original ways by which the epitome of Romanian folk dance would be re-invented, skillfully stylized and promoted in a cultured key, on-stage. In the shows staged, she strived and managed to create an original Romanian style in choreography; therefore she did not resort to technical translations but to an inspired stylizing of folk steps. Thus, a new language emerged and was given a name: Cultural Romanian Dance. It is with pleasure that I recollect the accomplished choreographic sequences in Wedding in the Carpathians (1939), based on a score of Paul Constantinescu, which was written under the inspiration of items collected during the ethnographical research carried through by Dimitrie Gusti's school. That was the first Romanian ballet drawing on folklore. Floria Capsali was the author of the staging and choreography. She also featured in the leading role, that of the Bride. I was interpreting the Groom. Mitiţă Dumitrescu – the Sad Lad. The decors and costumes were created after the sketches of sculptor Mac Constantinescu – yet another passionate artist who would contribute to materializing Floria Capsali's vision. I have to say that by taking part in the show I pervaded an unfamiliar world of thoughts and preoccupations. These were, in fact, constituted by a consistent concern, a cultural movement in its own right, kindled by contemporary scholar and researcher Dimitrie Gusti. As for myself, I was only naturally interested in Romanian folk dance, an alluring universe in which Floria Capsali had, due to professor Gusti, set foot. Obviously, I wouldn't venture so far as to say that we invented the wheel: a considerable number of choreographers before us had attempted to draw on national folk steps. Nevertheless, what Floria Capsali intended, accomplished, what we conjointly wished to fare, was an act of novelty. The aim was to filter the immense heritage of Romanian folk dance through the norms of Classical and character dance. We claimed a sound measure and proportion of the folk step, contrary to what had been attempted before, i.e. a folklorized ballet. Five decades have passed since, i.e. since the staging of the Wedding in the Carpathians; I'm asking myself to which extent I have succeeded in changing thought into fact. In a significant way?! Or, rather non-significant?! I could pursue this line of self-questioning, but, who would I be to hold the truthful answer. You see, I am puzzled: why has nobody made a successful attempt to approach the Wedding in the Carpathians since the partial triumph of the 1971 staging at the Opera, with Floria still alive and able to monitor the various production phases. Back again to Floria Capsali staged versions, I would mention Mihail Jora's Miss Măriuţa, a score inspired by the Frenchified Romanian Youths Movement in 1848, and Zeno Vancea's Elf . In both, I performed side by side with my master.The common concept of "female ballet performer" became a stock phrase in relation to a specific ballet genre. In my time, ladies in the ensemble were referred to as "ballerinas". Floria had developed an original dancing style. Generally speaking, she did not perform on toes, ergo, she was not a "toe-dancer". Those who met her during her youth as early as her collaborating era with Tănase's Cockchafer and with Alhambra, and, particularly, when she started performing along her (fe)male students in various formulae, at dancing soirées. On such occasions, audiences had the opportunity to admire a dancer unique by the shades and graphical translations used to convey spiritual and bodily experiences. Was she a great dancer? Was she less of a great dancer? What would I know? The crucial thing, to my mind, is this: but for the remarkable contributions of Floria Capsali, the contemporary Romanian school of ballet would be more jejune, and, undisputedly, would not have had the advantage of so many talented dancers. She discovered and groomed them with a considerable amount of understanding. What proves to have remained relevant today is her remarkable effort, her devotion and self-oblivion. She was an extremely spirited character. It is to the same extent that she was interested in the aesthetic schooling of dancers, as well as in the stage production and choreography aspect relative to the first genuinely Romanian ballet act. Hefty folk traces can be identified in a unique vision , grafted on the structure of studied dance. These would subsequently reflect in a very positive manner in the development of ballet and the Romanian School of Dance. For this reason I consider that an artist struggling to impose his/her ideas would make an important contribution to his field of toil.In Floria Capsali's home, one could encounter a unique atmosphere. I have never re-experienced it since. One may picture the reunion of Mac and Paul Constantinescu, Clark Nichols, Mitiţă Dumitrescu, composers Mihail Jora and Zeno Vancea, Constantin Silvestri, George Georgescu. Then, the company of Gabriel Negri, Mia Steriade, Marie-Jeanne Livezeanu, and furthermore. Conversations were always productive for all collocutors. The atmosphere was imbued with warmth and equanimity, artistic excellency; the general climate was one of ideas, quests and sanctuary answers. Floria had a subtle imagination, doubled by intellectual refinement. This became apparent even in her recitals, specially masterminded to a specific kind of music. A music intertwining with the poetry of movement. She had a further developed a manner of debating openly. She was a searcher and a passionate artist. She defined her life as an art of permanent pursuit. But for these quests, filtered through an original light, she herself predicated that life would have been depleted of meaning. Then, as now, I deemed this to be of great importance. For an artist to find his/her "stroke" is the most difficult undertaking. Once discovered, nevertheless, one may begin expressing oneself. Casa Capsali sported an impressive library. I was imbued with that atmosphere charged with dialogues, ideas, new social acquaintances. The notion of "folk research" fascinated me at a later stage. This passion vented into other forms of art, but, to a certain extent, revived my spiritual need to enrich the young school of ballet with new creations of great quality.
excerpt from Memoirs

by Oleg Danovski